Statistician confident Covid-19 is being stabilised; Cork not on list of counties being monitored for further restrictions

Statistician confident Covid-19 is being stabilised; Cork not on list of counties being monitored for further restrictions

Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group pictured at a Covid -19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

THE statistician advising the Government on restrictions has said he and the chief medical officer are "optimistic" that current health measures are stabilising Covid-19 cases.

However, Professor Philip Nolan, chair of the epidemiological modelling advisory group, warned that the number of daily cases need to be lower before restrictions can be lifted.

He made the comments after the lockdown in Co Kildare was lifted on Monday night.

Around 60% of the country's pubs have remained closed for more than five months while further restrictions on gatherings were reintroduced earlier this month.

"I think both Dr (Ronan) Glynn (chief medical officer) and myself would be optimistic, it's important to be cautiously optimistic at times in the face of this virus," he told RTÉ Morning Ireland.

"So we have had a stable daily count since August 19. It needs to be lower, I wouldn't want to be hit with another event from a baseline of 100 cases per day.

"The lower the number of cases, the better we can cope with any new outbreak, so I do think it is working."

Prof Nolan, a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said that "if and when" pubs reopen, people will have to stay in small groups and remain separate.

Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, , Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group and Dr. Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer, HSE pictured at a Covid -19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Dr Ronan Glynn, Acting Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, , Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group and Dr. Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer, HSE pictured at a Covid -19 update press conference at the Department of Health. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

"Sadly, if we're going to be able to go to school and go to work and carry the risks of our transmission that those things carry, we really are going to have to reserve our contacts for those settings and meet in small groups," he explained.

"So those group restrictions will be with us for some considerable time, because they're protecting our priorities around the school, work, participation and sport - all of those things."

Prof Nolan defended the turnaround test time after it emerged that it took more than 72 hours in one weekend.

He said that while the team is "anxious" to bring the testing time down, the delay was caused by a large outbreak.

"The vast majority of tests right now are coming back in 24 to 48 hours," he added.

"We do have a national target, not only to get the result back, but to have the contacts traced within 72 hours of the referral for test, which would mean the test results should be back well within 48 hours.

"I know the HSE is working extremely hard to hit that target. It's a very challenging target, it is literally world class. So sometimes it is going to be missed, particularly if there was a big strain on the system.

"Broadly speaking, the idea to take 36 to 48 hours is a reasonable expectation for us as members of the public to expect to get our results back.

"It's impossible really to do it much faster than 24 hours and therefore 48 hours is a good target."

LOCKDOWN

Five counties are being closely monitored by public health officials due to a rise in the level of Covid-19 infections as Kildare exits the local lockdown that was in place since August 7th.

Dublin, Limerick, Tipperary, Carlow and Wexford have each recorded a rise in Covid-19 cases over the last two weeks.

The National Public Health Emergency Team has asked people living in the counties to take extra care in following public health guidelines.

Chair of the NPHET Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan, says just because there may be a lot of cases, doesn't mean additional restrictions are needed.

Prof Nolan added that a local lockdown would not be the first course of action for any of the counties that are being closely monitored.

"These counties are each different from each other, you don't just look at a single figure like the incidence per hundred thousand people. You look at the pattern of the disease, the nature of the outbreak, how much you know about transmission and how much you don't know. It's where you don't know and you can't track the cases where you have a problem."

The lockdown in Kildare was lifted on Monday after NPHET met to review the situation.

The State's acting chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, said he wanted to recognise “the very significant impact of the measures on individuals, communities and businesses in Kildare over the past three weeks.” He added: “At a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team today, NPHET thanked people in Kildare – and in Laois and Offaly previously – for their forbearance and noted that their actions are a demonstration, and a further reminder, of what can be achieved through collective action as we continue to strike a balance between living our lives and behaving in a way that protects one another.”

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